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February 5, 2012

1937 was quite a year

Nostalgia plays a major part in what this column has been about since 1997. I was 60 when I was asked to begin writing "Small Talk," and it made a weekly appearance for most of that time.

Every now and then, I recapitulate, or at least look back to retrieve, some of my life's events. Topics have run the gamut from grandma's button boxes to why many women don't wear aprons anymore.

My River Room contains a stacked sectional bookcase with hinged glass doors on the front. It came from my dad's study and was made in Utica about 100 years ago. Kaye and I keep the shelves filled with items that have special meaning for us.

From time to time, we see a news item or documentary on the Hindenburg disaster. I am drawn to our old bookcase and to an odd-shaped piece of wood, 2½ inches tall, 3½ inches wide and 13„16 inches thick. On one side, written by my dad with pen and ink in his unique style, is the following: "Piece-from Hindenburg burned at Lakehurst NJ May 1937." My dad kept it on his desk in front of a stunning picture with the legend, "News photos bring the world into your home daily. One of the best was a shot of the burning Hindenburg." It shows the flaming 800-foot-long behemoth as it tried to moor to the mast at the Naval Air Station.

My father was a traveling evangelist, conducting services near Lakehurst, N.J. A member of the congregation approached him shortly after the disaster and explained that he was a member of the ground crew when the explosion and crash occurred on May 6, 1937, about a month and a week before I was born. He had loaded a few remnants of the huge airship into his trunk and offered one of them to my dad, who took it gladly. It was passed on to me, and I cherish it to this day.

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